Best French Presses of 2018
A French press preserves your coffee's original flavor, resulting in a robust, savory brew. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best French press to meet your standards of taste.
Find Your French Press and Sip Coffee at Its Finest
Of all the modern methods of extracting the liquid gold that is fresh coffee, none quite manages to preserve its original flavors the way that a French press does.
Among automated espresso machines and coffeemakers, the humble French press stands unwavering and unapologetic in its utter simplicity. And coffee connoisseurs wouldn't have it any other way. In today's technologically advanced society, there's something to be said for low-tech gadgets that consistently deliver excellence without complication.
If you love coffee and are in the market for a French press, you'll be happy to hear that choosing one is relatively easy. That said, finding a great French press still requires a little know-how. Not sure where to start? We've got you covered!
Through a combination of extensive research and thorough in-house testing, we've managed to narrow down three of the best French presses available.
Already know what you're looking for and can't wait to take the plunge? Refer directly to our top three French presses featured above to make your selection. Or, if you'd like to learn more before you make a purchase, continue reading to find out exactly what sets the best French presses apart from the rest.
How Does a French Press Work?
For many, the beauty of the French press lies in its simplicity. With only a handful of key elements, operating a French press is astoundingly straightforward. All French presses are comprised of the following parts:
- Carafe: This is where the magic happens. The carafe is commonly constructed of stainless steel, glass, or plastic. It is used to brew the ground coffee beans.
- Lid and Plunger: In keeping with the theme of convenience, the lid and plunger are integrated.
- Filter Assembly: This usually consists of a spiral plate (or structure disk) that attaches to the plunger rod, a fine mesh filter screen (or two, in some cases) that works to strain the coffee grounds, and a cross plate that holds the mesh filter in place.
- Frame and Handle: Some French presses (usually glass and plastic varieties) feature a separate frame with a handle attached. These hold the removable carafe and allow for convenient handling.
To use your French press, simply add the desired amount of coffee and water, stir, steep, strain, and enjoy!
How to Make Coffee Using a French Press
It's true—making coffee in a French press is ridiculously easy. While many coffee drinkers have their own unique methods, the best techniques remain debatable. At the end of the day, the way you make and enjoy your coffee boils down to personal preference. We find the following steps work well, although they can always be tweaked to taste.
Step One: Boil the water.
Begin the process by removing the lid of your French press. Bring your water to a boil, and let it cool for a minute or two before pouring to avoid scalding your coffee. Although not a strict requirement, we recommend using fresh water, as previously boiled water can sometimes taste a little flat.
Step Two: Grind your coffee beans.
While waiting for your water to boil and cool slightly, grind your coffee beans in a burr grinder. When using a French press, you don't want to grind the beans too fine, as this could end up clogging the filter or even passing through it. Aim for a medium to large grind—but not too large, as this will produce weak and diluted coffee—that's consistent throughout.
Step Three: Measure the coffee, and spoon it into the carafe.
Some coffee aficionados swear by weighing out their coffee each time, and we don't dispute that this yields the most consistent results. But like most, we value simplicity. Two tablespoons of coffee per six ounces of water is a good place to start. Too strong? Topping up your cup with a little extra water is always an option. Not strong enough? Two tablespoons of coffee to four ounces of water should do the trick.
Step Four: Add water—but not all at once.
Start by adding an equal amount of water to the coffee contained in the carafe. Give it a gentle stir to ensure there aren't any dry particles at the bottom. If you're using a glass carafe, opt for a chopstick, skewer, or small wooden paddle, as metal spoons can cause microscopic fissures and, eventually, breakage.
After giving your ground coffee a few seconds to bloom (a fancy way of describing the process in which coffee releases gas and flavor), add the rest of the water. If you're in a hurry, you could skip this step. Many people do, adding all the water at once before giving it a quick stir. You'll certainly still enjoy your coffee this way.
Step Five: Allow the coffee to steep.
Replace the lid, making sure the plunger is pulled all the way back. Allow the coffee to steep. Between 3 and 4 minutes works best. While you could reduce the time for a milder cup, steeping for longer than 5 minutes isn't recommended. Beyond this point, coffee may become bitter and acidic.
Step Six: Strain and plunge.
Once your coffee has brewed, slowly push down on the plunger. If there seems to be a lot of resistance, the grind may be too fine. No resistance, on the other hand, is indicative of a grind that is too coarse.
Step Seven: Pour and enjoy your French press coffee.
Pour and drink your coffee as soon as possible. Remember, if left in the carafe, the coffee will continue to brew, developing the bitter, astringent flavors that go hand-in-hand with over-extracting. Avoid pouring out the very last drop, as there may be some sediment.
French Press Considerations
Although all French presses work in the same manner, they come in an assortment of sizes and materials, each with their own pros and cons.
- Glass: Quite possibly the most popular and perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing too, the glass carafe boasts a classic and elegant design and adds a visual element to the brewing process. These are well-loved among coffee connoisseurs for their excellent heat retention and scratch-resistant surfaces. Some manufacturers even use borosilicate glass, used in laboratory test tubes and beakers, for improved heat resistance and durability.
However, glass is still glass, and the probability of a glass carafe breaking sooner or later is high. Fortunately, most manufacturers offer replacement parts. If you simply can't resist the allure of a glass carafe, opting for a high-quality French press with a solid base is a good idea.
- Stainless Steel: Another firm favorite, stainless-steel French presses are incredibly durable and do an excellent job of retaining heat. Most stainless-steel options feature double-enforced walls, allowing for improved insulation and safe handling at the same time. Thanks to their superior durability, these carafes travel well; some are specifically designed for this purpose. However, they can be a bit pricey, and you won't be able to see what's happening while brewing.
- Shatterproof Plastic: French presses made of shatterproof plastic are undeniably more durable than glass and tend to be among the most affordable too. Unfortunately, even with safety measures in place, plastic is prone to accumulating scratches that can greatly diminish attractiveness. Should you decide to go the plastic route, always ensure your chosen plastic French press is BPA-free.
- Ceramic: For some, the greatest appeal of a ceramic carafe is its unique appearance. Not the most mainstream variety, ceramic French presses nevertheless offer great heat retention and decent durability—although they're not unbreakable. If you're looking for something a little different, a ceramic carafe is a standout option worth considering.
French presses come in a number of sizes, and carafe capacity is a key consideration. While many coffee drinkers find smaller carafes to be perfectly adequate, larger carafes offer considerably more versatility. Simply adding less coffee and water to a 34-ounce carafe is always an option, whereas a smaller 12-ounce carafe will only yield two to three cups. However, for coffee drinkers who are short on space or sipping solo, a smaller carafe may be a more feasible purchase.
There are countless French press options to choose from, and finding a price tag to suit your pocketbook shouldn't be too difficult. Regardless of the material type, you could easily pick up an entry-level French press for $15 to $20. Those interested in splurging on the best can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $200. However, for the average coffee lover in search of cost-effective quality, we recommend a mid-range French press priced between $35 and $75.
Q. What's the best way to clean my French press?
A. Ensuring that your French press is truly clean before using it is of the utmost importance. Leftover coffee particles can impart unwanted flavors and end up ruining your brew. Follow these steps after each use to ensure your coffee lives up to its true potential each time.
- Empty the spent coffee grounds into the garbage by giving the base a gentle tap. Avoid emptying the grounds into the sink, as accumulated coffee grounds could eventually lead to clogging. Any grounds still clinging to the bottom can be removed with a wooden spoon or paddle. Remember not to use metal spoons in a glass carafe, as this could damage it.
- Dismantle and wash each part of your French press, making sure to wash the three disks of the filter assembly with extra care. Gently scrub each component with a soft brush to ensure all build-up is removed. Using a mild soap and non-abrasive sponge, wash the inside and outside of the carafe. Rinse well.
- Leave your French press to air dry, or gently dry it with a clean kitchen towel.
Note: Some French press owners choose to forgo using detergent altogether, as they feel it could alter the flavor of the coffee. However, if you use a gentle detergent and rinse well, this shouldn't be a problem.
Q. Can I use store-bought ground coffee in a French press?
A. Technically, yes. As long as you choose a coarse grind, you could use store-bought ground coffee in your French press. Will it taste good? Probably not. For those times when convenience trumps freshness and flavor—and you're not expecting an amazing cup of coffee—store-bought coffee will do.
Q. Can I grind and store my coffee to save time?
A. Nothing beats freshly ground coffee, and we don't recommend grinding and storing. Grinding each batch prior to brewing preserves oils and produces a more flavorful cup. However, if this is your only option, use your ground coffee within seven days. Following this, most of the natural oils will have broken down, and you'll be left with a noticeably stale (and sometimes bitter) beverage.